PITTSBURGH – Darwin Barney’s future with the Cubs will be one of the storylines this summer. Javier Baez should be knocking down the door at Triple-A Iowa and Theo Epstein’s front office won’t hesitate to move veterans for more prospects.
Barney started on Opening Day at PNC Park, but the Gold Glove second baseman didn’t have his name in the lineup for Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Emilio Bonifacio batting leadoff and playing second base on Wednesday, manager Rick Renteria downplayed the idea that a platoon could be forming.
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“It’s just an opportunity for us to be able to get guys in and use them at different positions,” Renteria said. “We’ll keep them comfortable moving from position to position on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean Barney’s not going to face righties. Not at all. These guys are all going to be playing. I think they’re going to get plenty of playing time.”
Bonifacio is now 9-for-12 with three stolen bases, a walk and an intentional walk after a 4-3 walk-off loss to the Pirates in 16 innings.
Bonifacio is a switch-hitter who can play all over the infield and the outfield. He had four hits on Opening Day – the only other player to do that in his Cubs debut was Jack Doyle 113 years ago.
The Cubs don’t have many sure things in their lineup, so the daily questions will continue for Renteria. Shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and catcher Welington Castillo are everyday players with something to prove, but there are plenty of mix-and-match options after that.
Barney’s defense and steadying influence on Castro can’t be dismissed, especially when the Cubs will be playing in cold weather and runs will be at a premium. They will have enough trouble scoring anyway.
“His glove is an important part of the equation,” Renteria said. “The reality is when you’re looking at the lineup as a whole, all the guys that we have play a pretty good defensive ballgame.”
Barney’s elite defensive skills and intangibles would play better on a contending team that could provide some cover and allow him to find his offensive game (.628 career OPS). Stay tuned.